The real benefits of using the right external suppliers to develop Clinical Systems eLearning
Updated: Jul 4
This week I will be attending the Kick-off meeting for a project to develop a new RiO e-Learning course for Student Nurses at a London NHS Trust. Premier IT’s eLearning team is developing this to replace the existing Business-As-Usual training.
Whilst being fully localised and unique to the trust and using all their screens and processes, it is also designed to be adaptable across roles so that these initial modules can act as the foundation of a much wider programme of RiO learning, with modules reused or modified to help make up courses for other roles. Ultimately, the trust will be able to build up a comprehensive programme of Clinical Systems eLearning for all their staff from these initial building blocks.
I have previously written about the advantages of using e-Learning to complement or replace face-to-face Clinical Systems training for large-scale rollouts and Business-As-Usual training. To list just a few of the benefits that I have identified in previous blogs:
It saves on trainer and venue costs
It provides consistency of message
It allows learners who receive training weeks before rollout to refresh their knowledge
It can be reutilised throughout the rollout to refresh training and reduce pressure on Helpdesks, Champions, and Floorwalkers
It can reduce the ongoing costs of BAU training
Today, I want to broaden the topic to discuss the specific advantages of employing an outside organisation, such as Premier IT, to develop (or work with you to develop) your clinical systems eLearning for you. I use the caveat ‘such as Premier IT’ because whilst there are hundreds of eLearning companies out there that undertake bespoke development, there are actually very few that specialise in this kind of development and possess the required level of expertise in healthcare and clinical systems. To maximise all the benefits that I am outlining below, it is important to choose a company that has a proven track record in Clinical Systems eLearning development, and not just eLearning development, and one that ideally employs developers with experience in training clinical systems in a classroom setting so that they can marry all their eLearning expertise along with a real understanding for the learning objectives that they need to meet, and the audience that they are writing for.
There are two main reasons that healthcare organisations are likely to use external suppliers to develop their Clinical Systems eLearning:
Lack of Capacity – Training departments are frequently stretched at the best of times and once a rollout for new software appears on the horizon, often the training manager will be reviewing the budget with the intent to bring in temporary trainers to ease the burden. However, utilising some of these funds to purchase eLearning instead, provides a solution that not only meets the immediate needs of the rollout but can alleviate capacity problems going forward in the medium and long term.
Lack of Capability – Whilst many health organisations have started to develop eLearning in-house, not all have them have experience in developing system skills eLearning. Where they do have that capability, those developers do not necessarily know the systems that are being rolled out as they are not often clinical systems trainers, but e-learning developers from a centralised pool. Where trusts do have eLearning expertise within their clinical systems team, then they may be hit with the problem of lack of capacity and find themselves unable to manage the burden of development for a large-scale project.
Utilising an external company, such as Premier IT, to complete this initial development does not close the doors to taking ownership in-house in the future. In fact, in many cases, we have worked with trusts to develop the content required for rollout and then empowered their Clinical Systems trainers to maintain and expand that content once the pressure of the rollout has subsided.
Whilst the above may be the two main reasons that organisations turn to suppliers to help them create Clinical Systems eLearning, there are many more benefits that can be realised from using external developers that are experienced in this kind of project. Here are just a few for your consideration:
eLearning Expertise – if you choose the right company, they will use dedicated eLearning developers with years of experience developing systems eLearning. They will be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t, and they will quickly find solutions to all your concerns and requirements – whether it relates to how to make the assessments robust, ensuring complex reporting elements can be fed back into the Learning Management System through the creation of variables, or tweaking design elements to accentuate key information.
Project Experience – if you work with a company such as ours, you will benefit from all the lessons we have learned in similar development projects that have preceded it. At Kick-off meetings, I present our approach, processes, and suggested validation points and milestones. When I do so, I am able to justify each of these and explain why we suggest working in this way and how it mitigates risks encountered in previous projects. Training is such a crucial part of any Clinical Systems rollout – it is always advantageous to take heed of lessons learnt on similar projects wherever possible.
External Viewpoint – one of the challenges when creating training for a subject with which you are already familiar, is that it can be hard to place yourself in the viewpoint of the learner. External developers will ask questions and draw connections and conclusions that you may not have considered because your familiarity to the project and system is localised to your organisation, whereas their expertise and familiarity extends across the system functionality as a whole and is broadened by their experience of how it is used by other organisations. We have frequently had the experience of being on projects where our questions about a process have led to reconsiderations of an SOP, or where we have been able to highlight to the trust that their current SOP will have a previously unforeseen outcome on the system.
Commitment to Quality – external suppliers will have a quality standard that they will adhere to. This ensures that your content is reviewed and checked internally to ensure that it meets the required standards of layout, design, spelling, grammar, and more. All the content that is created by their developers will be consistent across the board. This is something that is rare to achieve in-house due to time pressures and often a lack of agreed style at the outset.
Investment in Deadlines – an external organisation is dedicated to meeting your deadlines and they will work with you to ensure these are achieved and advise you of any concerns or obstacles to progress that may cause delays. When content is developed internally, it can become difficult to ringfence the resource so that employee time remains dedicated to the project – especially if the creation of eLearning is only part of their role. However, a supplier is dedicated to delivering to you, and can prioritise your deadlines.
Focus on Verification – there can be a danger of complacency when something has been trained for a long time. Even when the system is new or an upgrade of an existing product, if a trainer has been delivering courses based around the same processes for a long time, they may be convinced that their methods are correct and follow the agreed SOPs. However, we have sometimes discovered, when developing the scripts as a third party, that our inbuilt verification checks with the trainers, clinical leads, and change leads have highlighted discrepancies of understanding around agreed processes, which has ensured accuracy and consistency within the learning that might not otherwise have been achieved.
Accessibility – all eLearning content should aim to be, at minimum, Level AA accessible. Many eLearning developers – especially those who do not develop full-time – are not fully conversant with the complexity of the WCAG 2.1 guidelines and how to meet them. The truth is that it is very hard to meet all components of Level AA when creating System Skills eLearning but some of the rapid authoring tools make it almost impossible to meet any of them. The level of work involved in creating templates that are accessible in eLearning is underestimated, and at least 50% of our testing on non-system skills modules is accessibility testing. Working with an external supplier allows you to pass the hard work of making the content as accessible as possible to them.
Increased Capacity Project-wide – a good supplier will be offering you a full package including project management, as well as development. They will guide you through the process of development from start to finish and provide regular feedback and status updates allowing you to concentrate on the wider rollout programme.
If you are in the process of developing a programme of Clinical Systems eLearning at your organisation, or plan to do so in the future, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to discuss how our dedicated eLearning development team of former NHS Clinical System trainers can help you – whether it is to work alongside you in your development, conduct accessibility testing and provide general guidance, or take on a full development project.